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Carmakers take iPod for a drive

Five top carmakers plan to connect Apple's music player to their car stereos.

Even Ferrari has begun singing the Apple iPod's song.

Apple Computer announced at its 2005 Macworld Expo on Tuesday that this year, legendary sports car maker Ferrari and four other automobile manufacturers plan to offer kits that meld its iPod music player with their car stereo systems.

Mercedes-Benz USA and Volvo, the first two companies to detail their plans for the U.S. market, will offer iPod adapters for several of their models. The adapters will allow drivers to access songs stored on their iPods via their car stereo controls, including steering-wheel-mounted buttons. Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Nissan will announce their respective iPod adapter plans later in the year, Apple said in a statement.

Mercedes, Volvo and the others are following a trend started by BMW in 2004. BMW now builds several car models whose steering wheels incorporate iPod controls; it also offers a $149 iPod-stereo adapter for several of its car models. Several car stereo manufacturers have also begun offering adapters that connect iPods directly to their respective car stereo models. Alpine offers the KCA-420i adapter, which costs about $100 and can connect iPod and iPod Mini players to several Alpine-brand stereos.

Pioneer and Clarion also discussed plans to make the connection between the iPod and their own stereo systems at last week's Consumer Electronics Show.

For its part, Mercedes-Benz will roll out its first iPod Integration Kit in the United States in its 2006 Mercedes-Benz M-Class, due in April. The kit, versions of which Mercedes plans to make available for most of its other 2005 and 2006 models later in the year, will allow M-Class drivers to use their steering wheel stereo controls or the car's multifunction display to hear iPod tunes, Apple said in a statement. Pricing for the kit was not announced.

Volvo will offer two iPod kits that cover its entire 2005 U.S. model line and will also allow drivers to select music via their steering wheel controls. One version of the Volvo iPod Adapter will connect Volvo S60, S80, V70 and XC70 models via a cable in the cars' glove compartments. Adapters for Volvo S40, V50 and XC90 models will use a dashboard-mounted FM radio transmitter, Apple said in a statement. Pricing was not announced.

While only a few manufacturers have officially announced plans to adapt their car stereos to work with the iPod, Apple said in a statement that nearly all carmakers are working on some way to make the connection.

"iPod customers want to take their entire music collection with them everywhere they go, including their car," Philip Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide product marketing at Apple, said in a statement. "We're excited to be able to work with so many leading automotive companies to provide customers with integrated solutions" for iPods.